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Regardless Of Who The Celtics End Up Playing, The Time Has Come To Show They Are Finally Ready To Reach The Top Of The Mountain

At the beginning of April, there was a whole lot of debate as to what the preferred playoff path for the Celtics should be. At this time the matchups could have been anything, from the Pacers to the Heat to the Sixers to the Bulls to the Hawks to the Magic etc. Seeding was so close and there was still so much basketball to play to close out the year not to mention the actual Play In, and at the time I really didn't understand the point of getting worked up about it. 

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Fast forward to today, and the list has only two options. 

The Bulls (with a hampered Alex Caruso) or the Heat (most likely without Jimmy Butler)

With this final pairing, you get the sense that the overall narrative has shifted into a bit of a different discussion. In early April, it was about "who should the Celtics want to avoid", whereas now it's "who should they prefer for the easier matchup" and just like 18 days ago my stance has not changed

They get who they get. Check ball, and let the chips fall where they may.

It didn't matter to me then and it doesn't really matter to me now, mostly for one simple reason. This entire playoff run comes down to one thing, and it's not what their playoff path or matchups might be.

The Boston Celtics are either ready to win the NBA title or they aren't. 

After the historic regular season we just witnessed, the balance and talent of the roster, I feel like the Celts have graduated past the idea where they need to be worried about who they play or what their matchup is. I also think they're past preferring the "easier" matchup to advance. They've never had an easy path before, so they shouldn't need one now. 

This playoff run isn't about any other team in the field to me, it's about the Boston Celtics.

If it's the Bulls? Cool. If it's the Heat? Cool. None of it should matter, not in the sense that they can't lose to anyone in any given game, but in the sense that the mindset should not change.

As we've seen all year, when the Celts play to their ceiling, they are very, very tough to beat. 

What I think we're all looking for as fans is to see that this is the group that is finally ready. Not screwing around and extending series that have no business going that far, not being ready to go mentally because maybe there's a situation where they are not respecting their opponent as they should, can they avoid the self-inflicted wounds that have buried them in past playoff runs, shit like that. The biggest obstacle for this team very well may be themselves. 

To win an NBA title, you have to take it. There are going to be ups and downs along the way, as nobody is going 16-0. There will be high pressure moments regardless of who they play which will require them to execute, which is why I don't get the point of getting worked up over who they play. They'll certainly be favored in every matchup they see, so it's not really about the other team. 

I think you'd be foolish to say "I want them to play Team X because that's the easier matchup". Fuck that. That's the exact mindset we should be avoiding. The second you allow that to creep in, you're cooked. Given what we experienced in these last 2 playoff runs, I can't imagine ever thinking that way. I want this team to be operating like the machine we saw all year. It didn't matter who they were playing, they were consistent and they were dominant. That is how you win an NBA title. If you get some breaks along the way, cool. But you can't control that shit. As Brad always says, focus on controlling what you can control.

Nothing this time of the year is easy. Nothing ever goes according to plan or how you may have thought before a series begins. But what we do know is that if the Celtics play to the level we saw for the last 6 months, we have seen what type of success that brings, regardless of who is on the other side.

We all know what's at stake here. This run is either going to cement the 2023-24 Boston Celtics as one of the greatest teams in NBA history should they win the title, or it's going to cement the 2023-24 Boston Celtics as one of the greatest if not the greatest choke jobs in NBA history should they fall short. 

At the end of the day, they're either ready or they aren't. While they have a prime opportunity given what's happened these last few days when it comes to their potential path, it all means nothing if they aren't ready to step up and take it. 

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They enter the playoffs with by far the biggest target on their back, and the time has now come to show the world exactly why that is.

Let us pray.